You’ve Got Layoffs!

My former AOL colleague Joe Loong has up something called “Preparing for Your Impending Layoff From AOL,” which as you might guess is about what to do when you’re laid off from that august institution, as I was in 1998, and Joe himself was in 2007. It’s got some AOL-specific stuff in there, but there’s a lot there that’s generally applicable to being laid off from anywhere.

Joe’s advice is practical and good and I don’t have too much to add to it, except the admonition that as awful as being laid off is when it happens, it’s really not the end of the world. I’ve noted here often that in many ways being laid off from AOL was one of the best things that ever happened to me, because of how it motivated me to take charge of my own life. Other people’s mileage my vary in these cases, but the point here is that it doesn’t have to be the worst thing ever.

And certainly in the case of AOL, it’s not even unusual: even in the company’s heyday, it would layoff hundreds of people every time it did a re-org, which seemed like every six months or so. I always thought that was no way to run an Internet. On the other hand when a company lays off people as often as you or I change socks, it does bring home the point it’s not a personal process. It’s not you, it’s the dysfunctional corporate culture. Anyway, all the best people get laid off from AOL. Which helps to explain why it’s in the trouble it is today.

18 Comments on “You’ve Got Layoffs!”

  1. Wait…AOL is still around?

    I haven’t gotten one of those shiny promotional coasters from them in the mail in years.

  2. John….I think I got laid off from AOL at the same time you did. Was your layoff part of the shake out from the Netscape acquisition?

  3. “it motivated me to take charge of my own life.”

    I believe that anything that inspires anyone to do that is likely a good thing in the long run.


  4. Of course, if you’re going to get laid off from AOL it’s better to do it before the collapse of the entire worldwide economy.

    As for AOL itself, I can’t imagine why an Internet service provider that charges an arm and a leg for dial-up service would be struggling.


  5. Hey blogger John — thanks for the link. Q4 layoffs and a re-org every six months (whether it was needed or not) — that’s been the AOL M.O. for a long time. The current strategy seems to have been milking the Access bucks while building blog content verticals (using low paid bloggers) and, more importantly, assembling the ad network, which would have been great except for that whole “implody economy” thing.

  6. I was looking for a job when I got this one. I will be unemployed when I start looking for the next one. It’s no big deal as long as you live within your means and have a little saved for a rainy day.
    Credit cards are evil. If you can’t afford it save up until you can. An extra 20 percent so you can have it now isn’t worth it. There are two exceptions to this. A house or a car. Although you still have to save up the down payment.

  7. Well, I suppose getting laid off from AOL isn’t as bad as being killed and butchered by alien werewolves.

  8. “Well, I suppose getting laid off from AOL isn’t as bad as being killed and butchered by alien werewolves.”

    No, no. They werewolves work for Google. That whole “Don’t be evil” thing is just part of the instruction manual that the werewolves receive to blend into human society. The killing and butchering part will come later (when we least expect it).

  9. I dunno. It seems like everybody’s getting laid off from AOL. If you get killed and butchered by alien werewolves, at least you have something to talk about around the holy water cooler in Heaven (or the rancid sewage tepidizer in Hell, depending).

    Also, a weird coincidence – I was just browsing through Subnormality, navigated over to Whatever, and, lo and behold, the latest Whateverette is a link to a comic by Rowntree! It’s a small Internet.

  10. In many ways, my divorce from my first husband provided me with the same motivation. There’s nothing like realizing that you’ve basically wasted ten years of your life to crystalize your dreams and motivate you to chase them.

  11. I did consulting work for two years before entering into the corporate world. It is cut throat and unruly as you have mentioned. However I took pride in training others to do my job. I am in my late twenties and worked with mostly 20 year olds. There was this one guy who lost his father. This dude was broken hearted when they sent him to me. I nicknamed him TD and got to work teaching him how to do QA of software. He was assigned a Unix based app I am more of a Windows kinda of a guy myself but quickly adapted to the Matrix like command prompt for his sake.

    After 3 months I saw his personality change he became more assertive and was promoted to level 2 “apprentince” and was given a laptop. Seeing him grow like that made me proud. However the peeps within the chain of command always want more, more, more which is not always doable I have a serious relationship that I must take care of for my sake so I reverted back to my consulting work so that I can set my own hours and charge a pretty penny at the same time. life is good.

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